By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
Participation in Seabrook Island Town Council meetings continues to impress. Oct. 23 saw a nearly full house at Town Hall, and a busy agenda. Three ordinances were listed for first reading, and Ordinance 2018-09 was back for a second reading and ratification.
Seabrook’s financial report continues to exhibit 2018’s roller coaster ride. Revenues were $16,000 lower than projected for the month of September, owing to checks in the mail instead of the bank, and setting the stage for another surplus in next month’s report. Despite the peaks and valleys, SITC remains $190 ahead of revenue projections, though slightly behind the same period last year. The town spent $10,000 less than anticipated in October, and $589,000 less than anticipated for the year. The mayor concluded with the customary caution; the bill for renovations along Seabrook Island Rd. still looms.
Lauren Rust, Executive Director of Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network gave the 2018 end of season report for her organization’s activity on Seabrook.
She, her team, and a boatload of volunteers took a number of pictures from Seabrook over the summer, which she shared with meeting attendees in her presentation. They had some good shots, and a few statistics to go along with them: 1,252 visitors were educated about strand feeding dolphins, a total of 12 “educators” spent 320 hours on the beach, and 90% of the interactions between educators and visitors were positive. Approximately 100 interactions were neutral and several interactions were negative, and involved residents. “Unfortunate,” said Mayor Ciancio.
However, there was no harassment of dolphins reported by LMMN, the very result Seabrook was seeking when they engaged the organization last spring. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines two levels of harassment; Level A – Any act of pursuit, torment or annoyance that has the potential to injure, and Level B – Any act that has the potential to disturb by causing a disruption of behavioral patterns in migration, breathing, nursing, feeding, or sheltering. Fines can be levied based on level, but Seabrook managed to avoid them.
Councilmember John Gregg alerted SITC to the lapse of a “stand-by” contract between the Town and Rostan Solutions (RS). The company provides debris removal monitoring services/ metrics to Seabrook, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses as a foundation for reimbursement of disaster related expenses. RS was the sole bidder on a contract initiated several years ago, with the option to renew in one-year increments until 2019. Although the lapse was inconsequential given the amount of expenses incurred by SITC, Gregg moved to reinstate the contract until it could be re-bid in 2019. The measure passed unanimously.
The ad hoc committee assembled to revise SITC’s employee handbook completed their work, Gregg advised. The handbook has also been reviewed by legal and seen by SITC members. It includes several updates/clarifications of harassment, roles, confidential information, working hours, standards of conduct/penalties, and leave policy.
Gregg said the club’s Long Range Planning Committee is incorporating some capital improvements into their strategic plan. Upgrading the pool and transitioning the “rec-room” into a café are some of the examples he mentioned.
Gregg concluded with an update of FEMA payments to the Seabrook. SC’s portion of funds from Hurricane Irma arrived in the amount of a healthy $14,000, $7,000 of which is for the Seabrook Island Utility he beamed in chairperson Bannwart’s direction. Requests for reimbursement for expenses incurred in preparation for hurricane Florence have been submitted by SITC, and acknowledged by FEMA’s federal office, said Gregg.
Councilmember Skip Crane said both councilmembers and the Town Administrator will be making regular submissions to the Seabrooker to enhance communications. The Mayor will be joining the effort by contributing monthly, he added. Crane concluded his report by saying the Town’s new website is taking shape, including such features as a customizable calendar on the homepage. He repeated his mantra: Old content is being migrated and augmented by new content, and photographs are still needed. He still expects a completion date by year’s end.
Councilmember John Wells made short work of his report again this month. He said the Seabrook Island Rd. barrel jump is in the final stages of being cleared. Floodgates are being installed, while permits for clearing adjacent areas of debris are secured, so drive gently, Wells cautioned. He concluded by reminding everyone the north end of the island is a bird sanctuary, including red knots (stopping to rest/eat during their estimated 20,000 mile annual migration), and asked residents to respect the area.
The Mayor’s report was more dour than usual. He said Seabrook has approved development along/behind Seabrook Island Rd. with nine conditions.
“1) Until a certificate of occupancy has been issued by the Town of Kiawah Island for the proposed senior living facility, vehicles involved with the construction of the proposed senior living facility may not enter or leave the site of that facility via Seabrook Island Road.
2) Applicant and Big Rock, their members and assigns, agree to comply with all of the provisions, terms, conditions and restrictions set forth in Applicant’s July 16, 2018 Application for Encroachment Permit.
3) Applicant and Big Rock, their members and assigns, warrant that they will pay any and all expenses incurred by the Town of Seabrook Island, South Carolina (the “Town”) as a result of expenses incurred or damages suffered by the Town and/or or its residents as a result of increased storm water runoff from the senior living facility. Final storm water plans shall be subject to review and approval by the Town prior to the commencement of construction activities.
4) Applicant and Big Rock, their members and assigns, shall indemnify and hold harmless the Town from any and all liability, claims and /or expenses (including reasonable attorney fees) arising out of or in any way related to bodily injury or property damage
(i) occurring on Applicant’s property, at or near the entrance to the senior living facility and
(ii) attributable to vehicular traffic entering or leaving the senior living facility.
5) The Easement Agreement between Applicant and the Town, wherein the Applicant allowed the use of its property for a bike path to Freshfields Village, shall be amended to delete the Town’s indemnification of Applicant as set forth therein. Nothing in this condition or the request therefore, shall be construed as a waiver of any immunities granted to the Town under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act.
6) Applicant and Big Rock, their members and assigns, shall fully mitigate, at their sole expense, the loss of or damage to trees resulting from construction of the senior living facility entrance and related modifications to Seabrook Island Road. The Town shall make the final determination of the type and size of required replacement trees and where they will be located.
7) Applicant and Big Rock, their members and assigns, warrant that they will at all times keep those portions of the pedestrian/bicycle path lying near the entrance to the senior living facility in good maintenance and repair.
8) The Town shall select and locate vehicular and bicycle/pedestrian traffic signage associated with the Seabrook Island Road entrance to the senior living facility at the sole expense of the Applicant and Big Rock.
9) In recognition of the Town’s declared policy of limiting access to the portion of Seabrook Island Road at issue, Applicant and Big Rock, their members and assigns, agree to share their conditionally permitted driveway with the developer of the neighboring property currently owned by Haulover Creek Development, or alternatively at the Town’s option, to close their conditionally permitted driveway and use a central entrance from Seabrook Island road that is permitted by the Town for construction on the neighboring property.”
The Mayor said the applicants objected to all nine conditions, filing suit in Charleston’s court of common pleas on Oct. 19. Depending on the result of mandatory pre-trial mediation, a trip to circuit court could be on the horizon. Mayor Ciancio and SITC are interested in other residents who might be able to represent Seabrook’s interests in the escalating matter.
Town Administrator Joe Cronin said the survey associated with the Town’s comprehensive plan is complete, along with 2/9 components of the plan (population and housing). He expects a Dec/Jan completion before it goes back to residents. However, he spent the bulk of his time discussing development of SITC’s master plan for Seabrook Island Rd. Consultants have been hired to address such issues as access, uses, traffic, safety, and landscaping of the trail to Seabrook. The aesthetics not only effect residents, visitors, and potential buyers, but also add weight to the Town’s legal standing as more development plans evolve.
Mayor Ciancio stepped in to announce Jim Bannwart’s retirement effective Oct. 30. Bannwart was first elected a commissioner of SIU in 2011 eventually chairing the utility, and was re-elected to a second six-year term year term in 2017. He served as chair of the POA before that, and has served the town in a number of capacities/committees, Seabrook tour guide, and was the tip of the spear on the team that earned Seabrook the National Audubon Society’s coveted “Sustainable Communities” designation.
“Thank you,” said the mayor. “You will be missed.” Bannwart plans a move closer to family in Roanoke, VA.
The last ever report by Bannwart for SIU was marked by normal operations, “a solid month,” and less than usual water usage due to fewer visitors and the hurricane evacuation. There will be no rate increase from Charleston to pass along, Bannwart said, but residents should expect one from SIU beginning next year. Aging infrastructure necessitates a 4-8% increase, which Bannwart said translated to about $4/month.
Ordinance 2018-10 was the first of three items before Council for a first reading. The measure brings Seabrook into compliance with state laws and establishes a procedure for requesting meetings to review variance requests.
Ordinance 2018-11 allows public notices of development standards to be sent electronically instead of being mailed.
Ordinance 2018-12 renames the Town of Seabrook Island Employee Packet to “… Handbook,” and adopts the new version discussed earlier in the meeting. All three measures passed first readings unanimously.
Ordinance 2018-09 defines what materials can be used for “fences.” SITC code prohibited some materials the Community Association’s Architectural Review Committee didn’t. The ordinance is intended to sync the two definitions, and passed its second reading unanimously in the wake of planning commission review/ approval. “No concertina wire,” grinned the Town Administrator.
Citizen’s comments were a mash-up of questions on business licenses, the senior living center, reducing fees for some work performed for residents on the island. All questions were addressed in an informal, conversational way.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting of the Seabrook Island Town Council will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 2:30 p.m.